Constipation 

The bowel is one of the major routes for ridding the body of waste products, and if blocked can contribute to major health problems and a general lack of vitality.Causes of chronic constipation include a low fibre diet, lack of exercise, dehydration, nervous stress and poor muscle tone. Your herbalist can advise on diet and lifestyle, and use herbal medicines to gently improve your bowel function. 

There are broadly two approaches to constipation. Constipation can occur when the bowel lacks tone or equally if it is too tense. There are also general measures that will help in either case. Simply drinking enough water can make a big difference. Soluble fibre is also important. This means fibre from raw fruit and vegetables.

The first type of constipation can occur if you eat a diet low in fibre and/or you do not do much exercise.  White bread, pastries and grains all need replacing with their wholemeal equivalents and a regular exercise regime put in place. There are also herbs that can gentle stimulate the bowel and digestion. Dandelion root and Yellow dock would both be useful, and bitter herbs such as Wormwood will aid digestion generally.

There are also a group of laxative herbs which include Senna, Cascara bark and Buckthorn bark. If you experience griping pain or stomach spasms when using a laxative herb this can be effectively allayed by taking a combination tea or formula that includes antispasmodics like Valerian or Skullcap, or Ginger.

The second type of constipation can be associated with stress. Tension can often manifest in the bowel, so when we feel tensed up, the bowel literally does the same thing. This type of constipation can occur even in people who appear to be doing all the right things with their diet. It also may not respond to stimulating herbs because the bowel actually needs relaxing.  The same dietary advice would be appropriate as above but different herbs. Valerian would be especially useful as it relaxes mind and body.

Psyllium seed (husk) is one way of ensuring that your fibre intake is sufficient and can gently help to relieve constipation. Psyllium seeds are something that can be used in both presentations of the condition. They are not a stimulating laxative but add bulk.  When mixed with water they swell and so can act as a bulking agent in gut, softening the stool and giving the bowel something to work on. Because they attract water into the bowel it is important to drink plenty of water when taking them.

Drinking enough water is vital. Without water your stools become dried and harder to move along the colon and to pass out. You should try to drink around 2 litres of water a day for optimum health.

© Napiers Herbals Ltd 2014 • Edinburgh and Glasgow • Herbalists and Medical Botanists since 1860
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